The Antiquities Act and America's National Monuments

A timeline of milestones

The Antiquities Act and America's National Monuments
Statue of Liberty
Getty Images

The Antiquities Act, which became law in 1906 after years of debate, has played a rich and enduring role in protecting our nation’s history and heritage. In 1976, Congress reaffirmed its intention to provide the president with land protection authority when it passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. The Antiquities Act has been used by 17 presidents from both parties and, more than 100 years after it was created, continues to be a landmark law to safeguard special places for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations.

1906

Library of Congress

Congress passes the Antiquities Act, giving presidents the power to designate national monuments.

1908

President Roosevelt designates the 639,200-acre Mount Olympus National Monument, WA.

1915

President Woodrow Wilson reduces the Mount Olympus National Monument by 313,280 acres.1

1920

The U.S. Supreme Court upholds President Roosevelt’s designation of Grand Canyon National Monument in Cameron v. United States.2

 

Seal hunters in Glacier Bay
Edward Curtis Library of Congress

1925

President Calvin Coolidge establishes the 1,379,316-acre Glacier Bay National Monument, AK.

 

Joshua Tree National Park
Getty Images

1933

President Herbert Hoover designates the 1,601,800-acre Death Valley National Monument, CA.

 

Death Valley National Park
Steve Whiston Fallen Log/Getty Images

1936

President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes the 825,340-acre Joshua Tree National Monument, CA.

1943

President Roosevelt designates the 221,000-acre Jackson Hole National Monument, WY.

 

Jackson Hole
AP

1945

A U.S. District Court upholds the establishment of Jackson Hole National Monument in Wyoming v. Franke.3

1976

Congress passes the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) and leaves the Antiquities Act untouched.4

1976

The U.S. Supreme Court finds that the Antiquities Act gives the president authority to protect species and habitat as “objects of scientific interest” in Cappaert v. United States.

 

Misty Fjords National Monument
Chip Porter Getty Images

1978

President Jimmy Carter uses the Antiquities Act to create 17 national monuments, providing interim protection for 56 million acres of public land in Alaska.

1978

The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska holds that the National Environmental Policy Act does not apply to a president’s actions under the Antiquities Act.

1980

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) provides additional conservation for many lands protected by President Carter under the Antiquities Act.

1996

President Bill Clinton establishes the 1,700,000-acre Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument, UT

1996

Federal legislation to limit the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act fails in Congress.

Stephen Jaffe AFP/Getty Images

2000

President Clinton establishes the 327,769-acre Giant Sequoia National Monument, CA

2000

Federal legislation to limit the president’s authority under the Antiquities Act fails in Congress.

2001

President George W. Bush requests that the Interior Department review all national monuments designated by President Clinton.

2001

Interior Secretary Gale Norton reviews Clinton monuments, recommends no changes.

2002

Federal court upholds President Clinton’s designation of the Giant Sequoia National Monument in Tulare County v. Bush.5

2004

Federal court upholds designation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.6

 

Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

2006

President Bush designates the 582,578-square-mile Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean.

 

Rose Atoll Marine National Monument
Ian Shive USFWS

2009

President Bush designates the 13,436-square-mile Rose Atoll National Monument in the Pacific Ocean.

2014

President Barack Obama establishes the 496,330-acre Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, NM.

2015

President Obama designates the 704,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument, NV.

 

Kelso Dunes
iStockphoto

2016

President Obama designates the 1,600,000-acre Mojave Trails National Monument, CA.

 

Bears Ears National Monument
Bob Thomason Getty Images

2016

President Obama establishes the 1,350,000-acre Bears Ears National Monument, UT.

2017

President Donald Trump directs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review 27 land and marine monuments designated since 1996. Zinke releases final report of review of monument designations.

2017

President Trump announces significant reductions to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase- Escalante national monuments in Utah.

2018

President Trump designates Camp Nelson National Monument in Kentucky.

Endnotes

  1. The courts were never asked to rule on the president’s authority to reduce the national monument.
  2. The decision established that the Grand Canyon is an object of scientific interest and confirmed the use of executive authority to protect it.
  3. The Supreme Court upheld President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s designation of Jackson Hole National Monument and found that courts have “limited jurisdiction to investigate and determine” whether a presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act is unreasonable.
  4. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) repealed the executive branch’s public lands withdrawal authority in 29 statutes. Congress also prohibited the secretary of the interior from modifying or revoking any monuments created by executive action under the Antiquities Act.
  5. The federal court held that the protection of ecosystems and scenic vistas is an appropriate use of the president’s Antiquities Act authority, which “is not limited to protecting only archeological sites.”
  6. The federal court rejected claims that the monument was too large and that the Antiquities Act was intended to be limited to protecting man-made objects.